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A Whole Food Diet is Better than Cutting Calories for Weight Loss

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook
 About Michelle      Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook
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It’s a great day for naturally-minded nutritionists everywhere. That’s because the long-standing myth that all calories are equal and that you simply have to cut calories if you want to lose weight has just been proven wrong.
A new study published in the American Medical Association’s own online journal JAMA Network, found that people who cut back on sugar, refined grains and processed foods in favor of eating more fruits and vegetables and other whole foods lost significantly more weight than those who cut portion size or reduced their calorie intake.
The results fly in the face of much of the weight loss advice offered by so many companies and health professionals who continue to tout the myth that the only thing that actually matters when it comes to weight loss is reducing calories and meal portion sizes. And, if you’re saying, “well, my parents were overweight, my grandparents were overweight, so I’m just overweight because of bad genes” you’ll need to rethink that belief too. The new study found that eating the higher quality food with less junk and more whole foods and fruits and vegetables worked regardless of genetics.
“I just can’t handle carbs, that’s the reason I’m overweight” you may be scoffing. And perhaps you can’t. But, the scientists who conducted the JAMA study found that the results were the same independent of peoples’ insulin response to their diet. The body (actually, the pancreas which is a long-thin organ that sits below your ribcage on the left side of your body) secretes insulin in response to blood sugar levels, which usually increase based on eating carbohydrates. In other words, by reducing the harmful foods in favor of eating nutritionally superior ones, people lost more weight, regardless of how their body responds to carbs, whatever their genetic makeup and even over those who cut calories or meal portion sizes.
So it turns out when it comes to eating for weight loss, size doesn’t matter—portion size that is. Eating for a healthy weight depends on quality over quantity. In other words, if you are choosing whether to eat that 540 calorie Big Mac or a brown rice bowl complete with roasted sweet potatoes and red peppers, spicy chickpeas, a sprinkling of pine nuts and pumpkin seeds, and topped with a garlic-tahini sauce which also totals 540 calories, opt for the rice bowl full of nutritious ingredients. Not only will it taste great and help you lose weight, it will also help keep you regular (a Big Mac has a measly 3 grams of fiber which really won’t make a dent in the 35 grams most people need every day to stay regular).
Additionally, the rice bowl would be packed with important anti-inflammatory Omega 3s, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and many of the other nutrients that are needed for great health. Conversely, the Big Mac contains trans fat which is a known contributor to heart disease, inflammation and cancer. It yields less than 2 percent of your daily vitamin C requirements needed to keep your immune system strong and your energy levels high. And, it contains a whopping 950 mg of sodium, which is about two-thirds of the maximum amount you should be getting each day.
I’m sure more than a few diet coaches and weight loss centers will be flailing to disprove the study results uncovered by the eight PhDs and medical doctors from Stanford University, but let’s hope they’ll do the right thing by encouraging healthy eating rather than the starvation tactics that are a part of most weight loss regimes. Because when it comes to losing weight, the best food is packed full of nutrients, not small in portion or calories.
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